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Sumantra Bose. Harvard University Press. September Find this book:. The multifaceted nature of Indian politics provides a challenge to those who want to address the breadth of experience across the divergent States and the dynamic nature of social, economic, and electoral change.
Sumantra Bose tackles this challenge by taking a dual approach, first offering a broad narrative of democratic development, then using a selection of case studies to explore in more detail some of the areas and events which confront democratic sustainability. The opening two chapters chart the political history of India from the s to , offering sketches of key events and movements, within the framework of the electoral dynamics of the period. The focus is on the development of the Indian party system, and the response of the governments to the decline in Congress hegemony and the rise of new regional mobilizations and movements.
These chapters provide the context for the greater depth in which three challenges to the democratic state in India are investigated: democratic development in West Bengal; the Maoist insurgency across a belt of central India; and the issue of Kashmir. Whilst almost any of the many States of India could have been chosen to examine the regionalisation and diversity of Indian politics, the case study of West Bengal provides a fascinating insight into the rise and consolidation of a Left-Front State government led by the Communist Party of India Marxist CPM , and the contemporary challenge of the former Congress leader Mamata Banerjee.
Controlling the State government for 34 years, between and , CPM rule was founded on a decentralization of power to rural panchayats and security of tenure given to sharecroppers, the most common agricultural practice in the State. These include the transition from a party organization based on rural mobilization to one of rural compliance, which became insensitive to common issues, and where dissent was often violently crushed and elections rigged.
The CPM mishandled industrial development in the State, moving from a stagnant policy of support for declining industries to a welcoming for inward investment which led to the government undertaking forced land acquisitions to set up Special Economic Zones for business.
Such actions led to violent confrontations with the poor and marginalized who had previously been considered part of the CPMs natural constituency, and discontent was politicized by Mamata Banerjee who had rejuvenated opposition politics after leaving the Congress and creating her own regional party, the Trinamool Congress. Maoist insurections have been a sporadic feature of Indian protest movements from the s, often taking place in regions populated by adivasi tribal groups across a number of States, from West Bengal, through Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh, and south to Andhra Pradesh.
Often violent, occasionally making forays into electoral politics, such movements are extreme responses to the oppression and insensitivity of State and national governments. He draws on research by academics such as Bela Bhatia, who gained access to Maoist groups, to outline the political, military, and social agendas that have emerged from these movements, recognizing the challenges and also the limitations of such ideologically purist, violent mobilizations, and the disruption to the communities they seek to represent and fight for.
It is a complex subject to cover, tackled by a variety of approaches, from first-hand accounts of conflict, through literature and official reports. The range of material, and bewildering profusion of movements, are brought together in a well-balanced assessment of the reasons for the endurance of such radical groups, and the failures and shortcomings of Indian democracy.
The final case study is of the Kashmir question, presenting the broader historical context to the post-Independence contestation over the borders and status of from India the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The role of the Indian government in undermining the legitimacy and representative basis of party politics from the s is clearly established, setting out the connivance of central government in the rigging of elections and suppression of opposition.
In the broader context of the international dispute, strategic considerations, and political sensitivity of the region to the Indian secular model of government, the chapter outlines the background to the militarization of the Kashmir conflict culminating in the state of warfare from to Transforming India works as an overview of contemporary democratic developments through the willingness to challenge the easy assumption that a competitive electoral arena and comparative stability make Indian democracy a success.
Just as understanding the politics of the United Kingdom is partial if the uncomfortable history of Northern Ireland is unacknowledged, engaging with some of the more challenging aspects of the Indian democratic experience leads to a richer assessment of political history. Sumantra Bose provides an erudite and engaging assessment of the way in which these challenges to democracy have developed, and the implications for politics in contemporary India.
TRANSFORMING INDIA: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy | By Sumantra Bose
Sumantra Bose. Harvard University Press. September Find this book:. The multifaceted nature of Indian politics provides a challenge to those who want to address the breadth of experience across the divergent States and the dynamic nature of social, economic, and electoral change. Sumantra Bose tackles this challenge by taking a dual approach, first offering a broad narrative of democratic development, then using a selection of case studies to explore in more detail some of the areas and events which confront democratic sustainability. The opening two chapters chart the political history of India from the s to , offering sketches of key events and movements, within the framework of the electoral dynamics of the period.
Transforming India: Challenges to the World's Largest Democracy
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